The Best Places in America to Be in The Event of a Collapse

Pat Bellew
By Pat Bellew April 12, 2016 12:34

The Best Places in America to Be in The Event of a Collapse

The simple truth of the matter is that if there actually is a major crisis or disaster that leads to a prolonged societal collapse in the US, there really isn’t going to be a “Good Place” to be. So, what we are looking for is the highest level of least bad we can achieve, and with careful planning and attention to certain factors it is possible to achieve a situation which is not only “survivable” but actually livable in even the worst case scenario. Obviously, where you choose to live will have an impact on your preparedness plans, so always keep that in mind.

First, you want to pick a place that allows you to maintain a normal, mainstream life before life as we know it comes crashing down. A lot of us are of the mindset that something catastrophic is inevitable, and history teaches us that this is indeed the case. I am becoming increasingly convinced that this is a sooner rather than a later probability, however it could conceivably still be years away. So in the meantime, you want to have reasonably convenient access to things like employment, education, cultural and extracurricular activities for your kids, modern medical facilities, shopping, and all the trappings of modern life. It is not yet time to run off and live in a cave isolated from the world (If that is your mindset, it doesn’t make you “Wrong”. But it doesn’t make you a prepper either. It makes you a hermit!).

Related: What’s The Closest Natural Nuclear Bunker to Your Home?

Ozark_fall_foliage_underHowever, when the fall arrives, large population centers are going to be rather dangerous on a number of levels. So it is wise to remove yourself from large cities. My suggestion in order to be able to have the best of both worlds is to choose a location in a rural setting between 70 and 100 miles from a small to mid-sized city. This distance allows you access to all the luxuries and conveniences, is within’ a manageable commuting distance if you are tied to a professional career, but it also provides a fairly substantial degree of insulation from the worst of the Urban Dangers that will crop up quickly once the balloon goes up.

You also want to choose an area where food is produced, and where you can start making food producing improvements to your property. In short, you want good soil and enough water to grow gardens and water live stock. You want an area where livestock is produced and sustained on natural grazing and not in feed lots. You also want to be absolutely certain that there is plenty of easily accessible water for your drinking, cooking, and sanitary needs. There are many isolated areas in deserts and high mountains, but there is a reason these places were never settled extensively. That reason is that it is hard to come up with enough water to grow things, and the climate in many cases is too extreme to live in comfortably year-round. In a prolonged survival situation, you don’t want to be dependent on cisterns and extremely deep wells, or on technology dependant delivery systems.

You will want to find an area where like-minded people live. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most rural areas still have core values of self sufficiency. They are also pockets of old school knowledge that has been lost in the larger world. In an area like this, if you have something to contribute it will be much easier to find a group to band together with for mutual defense and support when the time comes. You will also find that in such areas there is a strong gun culture, and you will neither stand out nor be the sole armed protector should the need arise, and you won’t be saddled with a bunch of suddenly armed newbies that don’t have a clue, country boys and girls know how to use their guns!

Another consideration is proximity to nuclear power plants, proximity to military installations, distance from potential targets in a nuclear attack, and things of this nature. As concerns the power plants, all I’m going to say is Fukushima. As to military installations, the concern is always martial law, confiscations, conscriptions and so on, all the FEMA camp nightmares we have envisioned and theorized about. I am not particularly concerned about nuclear war in the classic sense, and feel that EMP type weapons are a far more likely and devastating possibility, but terrorism is always a consideration and those guys are nuckin’ futs and very hard to anticipate, so being too close to potential targets detracts from an areas desirability.

Related: Do You Live in the Death Zone? US Nuclear Target Map.

So, where are the best places to be?

1. My personal favorite is the Ozarks region of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. This region provides many areas that are about the right distance from cities, have a good water supply, strong rural and conservative traditions, agricultural activity in the form of farming and ranching, and a history of subsistence farming. I wound up in the Ozarks almost by mistake, but have found much to love about the region, and many positive attributes from a prepper’s perspective. There are a lot of preppers here, so finding likeminded folks to bond with is not difficult.

The Ozarks region
The Ozarks region, in green, is my top pick. Some of that is just personal preference, but there is much to commend the Ozarks from a prepper’s standpoint.

2. My second Choice is the Appalachian region with a strong preference for the Great Smoky Mountains of North and South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. These regions offer up similar benefits to the Ozarks region, and offer up a lot of good choices to live a nice life today and weather the potential coming bad times. Again, be sure that a given location meets the other criteria, particularly the distance from major population centers. The portions of the Appalachians passing through the North East may be a less desirable idea due to proximity to many larger cities, but even here pockets of desirable location can be found.

The Appalachian region

The red areas are best, green and blue areas are pretty darn good, but I would steer clear of the yellow.

3. My Final top pick is the Cascade Mountains of Washington, Oregon, and California. Once again, there are plenty of spots in this region that meet the criteria. There are a lot of remnants of rural culture and heritage, and the climate is quite favorable for subsistence gardening. You have to be careful on the west coast though, there are large populations of liberals who won’t like your guns and have more of a dependence mentality than an independence mentality. If you are able to do so in advance, check out the attitudes and demeanor of local residents, if there is a core of “Old time Families” that is a plus, if there is a large population of relocated urban Californians, that is a big minus. If there is a large Hippy population, don’t write it off too quickly, many Hippy Types are pretty dialed in on the preparedness, self sufficiency, and Libertarian principals (It’s that old “don’t judge a book by its cover thing!).

The Cascade Mountains of Washington

My Final advice is to take a look at a precipitation map of the US. This will give you important clues to suitable locations. With adequate average rainfall, you need only look for oplaces that meet your other criteria to be fairly well assured that you have found as good a spot as any to weather the storm in a SHTF scenario.


All other criteria being met, the areas in greens and blues are your best bet in a SHTF scenario.

Related: H2O Dynamo – The Awesome Device That Turns Air into Fresh Water!

These are the best tips I can offer. Do you have another good option in mind?

Pick a spot and get prepared. BUT (all caps for a reason!), don’t let the prepping rule your life so that you are living out of fear! You can find a place that lets you live a normal, modern life but still allows you to be ready when things get really bad.

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Pat Bellew
By Pat Bellew April 12, 2016 12:34
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  1. Rick Fortune April 12, 14:53

    I suggest you evaluate your position in relation to urban areas adjacent. I worry, if you live or plan to hold up in an area that is in the 2 day walk from an urban area that may have suffered a disaster, fleeing on foot refugees will start to get hungry and thirsty the next morning, after fleeing. This puts you in extreme danger from looting and crime.

    Reply to this comment
    • Matt April 14, 01:50

      I totally agree with you Rick, I have been preaching this very idea for years now. My biggest worry in the event of a social or even government break down isn’t so much UN or government troops, but mostly the ill prepared masses who are desperate for anything, that’s what scares me most, at least in the beginning. Then, once things start to settle down a bit, assuming that it does, then it’s UN troops, military, etc… that worries me.

      Reply to this comment
      • MMG December 20, 01:23

        Fellas, A lot of great stuff! Let me say that if history teaches us anything, it is that the least effective and least to fear force since WW2, would be UN troops.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Sandy April 12, 16:33

    I agree with Rick. Stay far away from urban centers. The refugees will be overwhelming. You need a town big enough to have jobs and a good social life. A town near water and surrounded by wilderness and/or farmland. A town where the culture is friendly.

    Reply to this comment
  3. ann45harvey April 12, 16:44

    My choice is approx 5-10 miles out from a major city. there you’ll find supplies you can use but didn’t have the means to store but far enough that those without the means can’t venture out to. Also a small town area where there are school and office buildings to use as store out post and shelters that are brick. Also I’d look for the High ground. While a stream/river is preferred, it is not essential as it could be contaminated. Therefore,a place in the north where snow and rain can be captured, contained and filtered for consumption. Either way, a place that can be protected from outsiders who desire to do harm.

    Reply to this comment
    • Country Boy in MO February 22, 18:36

      “Approx 5-10miles out from a major city”.
      You will be over ran in half a day MAX!! A person walks at 3 miles an hour and can travel 20-25 miles a day on foot.
      Better rethink the distance.

      Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck April 12, 17:41

    I agree with the 2 previous posters, but think a little further is better. It is possible to walk 30 miles in 3 days, the time when “experts” tell us we run out of steam w/o water. I would look for a town not in close proximity to an interstate or heavily used secondary highway.

    Reply to this comment
  5. SG April 12, 17:53

    The areas mentioned may be good in theory, but remember there are important other threats such as
    proximity to Nuclear Power Plants, Volcanic Eruptions, and Earthquake Fault lines which can negate trust of survival in otherwise decent locations.

    Reply to this comment
    • sandy April 12, 19:11

      Ozarks? On the New Madrid fault and Nuc plant in Fulton. I don’t know if that’s a good idea…..

      Reply to this comment
      • Jason Laird April 12, 22:03

        The new Madrid Fault would have very little effect here and the Fulton plant is Hours away. I agree as a lifelong Ozark resident that this is the placer to survive

        Reply to this comment
      • Ron April 13, 12:36

        I live in the northwest corner of the Arkansas Ozarks and in the case of a New Madrid quake it may be the safest place. A sizable quake will cause massive flooding on most low lying areas cutting off access to any remaining resources of a city. Remember street gangs will destroy and burn as they move beyond the city so 2-3 miles is extremely risky. They will follow close proximity of major highways.

        Reply to this comment
    • BShackleton August 29, 17:35

      Nuclear power plant is a concern, but how often do we have earthquakes and volcanic eruptions?
      People are usually injured in earthquakes because of living in proximity of tall buildings especially the junk that is built in 3rd world or future US. Volcanic eruptions? Well I don’t think I’ll worry to much about,that.

      Reply to this comment
  6. LR April 12, 20:41

    I would love a hard copy if you have one, if not then electronic is ok.

    Reply to this comment
  7. BillH April 13, 04:03

    I agree with the consensus that neither urban, close to urban, nor along a main road out of an urban area is acceptable. Apart from this one issue, I don’t agree much at all with either the author or many of the other comments made here.

    Water is primary. Water is life. You need heavy and essentially year-round rainfall (so that manual watering of your garden/grove will rarely be needed). You also need on your property, a virtually unlimited supply. A well, stream, or lake. The Pacific coastal areas suggested by the author do not fit at all because of the ongoing drought.

    My secondary criteria is a relatively warm climate. The alternative is a reduced growing season and a need for winter heating. All of the suggestions made by the author do not work well at all as they are in mountainous areas.

    Finally, both the local community and the state should be accepting of self-reliance. Otherwise, before, during, and after a SHTF event, you will be faced with not merely moochers, but self-righteous moochers backed by the force of law. In other words, a rural community in a largely rural state that votes conservative. This eliminates the Pacific coast states again.

    So, what remains? Basically, the far South, from very eastern Texas to Georgia/Florida, excluding higher elevations and, of course, areas close to cities.

    I like peninsular Florida as the climate is the most temperate of this region, giving 2 to 3 crops a year; and the flat land with a high water table means a shallow well with a simple hand pump works nearly everywhere.

    Reply to this comment
    • Goatlover April 13, 11:15

      Shhhhhh! You are giving away all of our secrets!!! I can grow crops here year round. We have Artesian wells for water needing no electricity to bring it to the surface. I won’t EVER freeze to death. The worst problem in Florida will be burying all the dead old folks who won’t last very long when Walgreens and CVS run out of their drugs…

      Reply to this comment
      • BillH April 13, 19:40

        Yup. I didn’t mention artesian wells as they are available through much of the state, but not quite universally. Besides, no one is going to believe that through much of the state you can have a well that doesn’t even require a pump. And because the state has never had industrial activity, the water is not contaminated.

        Nope, they won’t believe us. Let them go for Minnesota.

        Reply to this comment
    • leo April 13, 20:36

      Florida is way too over populated.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tiny April 14, 18:51

      Living here in South Louisiana in the country is ideal, we have bountiful water supplies (high groundwater levels) year round crops, and a lot of what my family eats we grow, raise, hunt……not to mention the swamp is a buffet to us!

      Reply to this comment
    • Pat April 20, 19:58

      Way too close to huge urban centers. The Peninsula is to narrow to provide any refuge from the coastal cities. Much of the available water is brackish, and the problem is becoming worse as the aquifers are pumped down. Florida is a really bad choice.

      Reply to this comment
    • Robert July 15, 21:15

      Well said BillH….from northern Alabama… 🙂

      Reply to this comment
  8. CapnRon April 13, 10:15

    The best place to be in America in the event of a collapse…………..Australia

    C y’all down under!

    Reply to this comment
  9. Marky44 April 13, 10:37

    I agree with BillH with water being extremely important. The mountains of the western states for me would be a bad choice due to the seismic activity and lack of water due to droughts. The Appalachian would be to dangerous due to the large populations of the big cities migrating to the west. The best place would be nortern Minnesota with all the water and low population density. The problem is, you better know what you are doing in that type of climate or freeze your pooper off. Those that do live in that area/environment are self reliant types. I live in FL and I can’t convince my wife to move to northern WI which is my first choice. Fl is doomed when the SHTF. It will be the first one to go. Good article.

    Reply to this comment
    • BillH April 13, 19:14

      Well, I agree that South Florida is absurd. Extremely urban, and boxed in on 3 sides. Those people will die in place or head north to the truck farms in the Lake Okeechobee area. The everglades, which is the remainder of South Florida, has little land above water. As for the rest of the state, the population is very dense in a thin line along the East Coast, in the Orlando area, and from the greater Tampa area south to the Everglades.

      But the bulk of the state is low population, including the gulf coast north of the Tampa area, and the entire interior other than Orlando. Endless small lakes throughout.

      So, how do you figure that “Fl is doomed when the SHTF. It will be the fist one to go.” ??

      Reply to this comment
      • Tara April 17, 19:53

        I agree, I do NOT think FL will be that bad. I live and prep here. There are bad spots just like you said, but I live in a very small town, rural community. I have a well, plentiful rainfall, and a year-round gardening capabilities. Like another commenter said, I NEVER have to worry about freezing to death. Many of my neighbors are armed, I know because I can hear them practicing. And out here you NEED a gun for the wild animals that still come out, (that can also be hunted or trapped in worse-case scenario) like wild boar, foxes, coyotes, opossum, raccon, alligators, etc. BTW, I have seen ALL of them on my property. I have lived here my entire life so I KNOW Florida. I can read the weather, I know my plants and animals. The only thing I would like that I can’t have here, is a basement/underground bunker. Once you start digging here, you hit water pretty fast!

        Reply to this comment
    • mstextiles April 27, 13:16

      Marky I can help you find property in upper WI. MI I know it well. I have found some great properties in western North Carolina that your wife might prefer. If you stay In FL head for Perry.

      Reply to this comment
    • PNW dweller November 7, 23:28

      I live in Rural PNW… plenty of water. Drought is in California…

      Reply to this comment
  10. Dread April 13, 14:35

    The Great Smokey Mountains do not range into South Carolina, They are primarily in Tennesee. The Blue Ridge Mountains do flow over both North and South Carolina.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Amy M. April 13, 21:43

    I live I the Appalachian mountains, minutes from state and national forests with plentiful water. However, shouldn’t I be concerned about oak ridge? There’s also a nuclear facility about an hour away in the other direction.

    Reply to this comment
  12. SavageSam April 15, 20:01

    Is studying where the Native Americans lived of any value? It seems to me they were the Original (O.P.) Preppers. What about Eskimos? They’ve lived through the harshest winters mother nature has. Man, I’m (BRAND NEW) new to this and it seems overwhelming! It seems the more I learn the more I find out how UNprepared I am and how much I DON’T know.

    Reply to this comment
    • BillH April 19, 00:25

      They lived the same places that we are most likely to live.Near bodies of water.

      Reply to this comment
    • Curious December 12, 23:55

      What about the Eskimios?

      Reply to this comment
      • Gman December 20, 15:23

        Eskimos aren’t any more prepared than most people. They have been feed the white man owes them and he should take care of all there needs. The old folks know how to survive and live off the land.The young have for the most part didn’t learn from the elders.Don’t get me wrong some have, but they are getting few and far between. Alaska is not the place to be in a survival situation. I lived there for 33 years and retired to the lower 48. Good luck.

        Reply to this comment
  13. Radar May 3, 10:05

    I think prepping and surviving can be done almost anywhere away from large, and small cities should/when the SHTF. I was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains, and I know how to survive here. I have traveled the US and believe surviving can be done across the Country. I prefer the Appalachian Mountains because this is where I am from and I know the terrain, the animals, the weather conditions and so on. Just as those in Florida, Wisconsin, Oregon and the rest of the US know the areas they are from. I don’t think long distance moves are required to survive and thrive after the SHTF. Know you geographical region, the climate, the wildlife, the cities, and the nuclear, and military facilities closest to you and plan accordingly. Common sense will help you survive in any region.

    Reply to this comment
    • Robert July 15, 20:33

      Spot on Radar! There’s too much emphasis on bugging out…carrying only what is mobile. If you’re in the city you MUST do as Glenn (below) says…have a coordinated plan now. If in a reasonable size town, why leave? Close ranks with the town leadership and police…control your town. Secure it. Escort refugees through/around it. Augment the Police with volunteer security. Make neighborhood watch groups “neighborhood security forces”. Ensure the town secures a “town market” for the exchange of goods and services. etc. etc. In nation-wide crisis the importance of town Mayor’s and Police Chiefs is CRITICAL to success. Go to town meetings now and energize them to plan now.

      Reply to this comment
  14. arkansascajun May 5, 21:23

    the ozarks ( formally called the midamerica survival region ) is the only option. the blueridge has dense populations to the east and hurricane threats.
    the cascades were a great choice until fukushima. it’s TOAST now.
    we bugged out to the ozarks in 1975. MAINE is still viable except for the severe climate.
    good luck ya’ll

    Reply to this comment
  15. jodyel May 31, 17:39

    What about Texas? Was thinking of putting a small cabin on a couple of acres in East Texas.

    Good idea?

    Reply to this comment
    • Janette August 31, 05:01

      I am staying in Texas !!! Far south west !!! Fewer people. Weather is nice here in the mountains,(yes in Texas we have mountains) Collect rain water and shallow well.We will be fine.

      Reply to this comment
  16. Glenn June 1, 07:20

    If you plan to relocate you should already own the piece of property you plan to occupy before leaving home or have an ironclad agreement with the property owner. Alternatives may be public camp grounds or government owned land. Don’t expect to just set up shop and claim squatters rights on somebody else’s property.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Muscoe July 15, 15:50

    When something major happens where do you think all the “refuges” will be heading? Yep, the same places you have mentioned. They may be lazy but they aren’t stupid! They know where all the “goodies” will be. You want a place where the living is uncomfortable for part of the year, and survival is difficult but manageable.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Robert July 15, 20:24

    Interesting comments about bugging out of the cities. I agree that the cities are the last place you want to be in a regional-to-nation-wide crisis. However, if you haven’t already coordinated with like-minded family/friends just what is your plan? I advise town leaderships to immediately set up ways to direct/escort refugees through and around their towns. You should not plan to locate somewhere on the fly…you’ll likely end up in a refugee camp or shot when squatting on someone’s property. Plan ahead!

    Reply to this comment
  19. Mama Bear August 29, 21:18

    I live in Washington State near a town backed up against the Cascade mountains. The map above showing the different volcanoes is inadequate. There are SO MANY unmarked volcanoes up here it’s not funny! I just recently learned there are hot springs close by to Snoqualmie Pass (midway between Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier) and since then doing research on Google maps I’ve spotted several unmarked (though some are marked) smaller volcanoes. BTW, hot springs are fed by lava flows close to the surface. So if volcanoes freak you out, I wouldn’t suggest moving to the Cascades. One thing not covered in this article are natural disasters which seem to be coming in spades recently across the nation. Wherever you are it would be a good idea to be prepared for whatever sort of disaster your area is prone to. For instance, recently the folks in Louisianna would have done well to have a small boat available to them. Folks in tornado country should have water, leather gloves and tools to dig themselves and their neighbors out along with a “go to” place to get out of harm’s way when a tornado is bearing down. We here in earthquake/volcano country need leather gloves, face masks, water, tents (for when our houses collapse), and other items for long term survival. Frankly with the geological upheaval I am more concerned about that than the other scenarios.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Dflemin October 4, 00:08

    What do you think about Corpus Christi, TX on the Gulf Coast? It is a medium size city and the weather is wonderful. It isn’t on the way to a big city like Houston.

    Reply to this comment
  21. FullDraw October 7, 19:52

    So I’ve read the article and skimmed though the comments and have one thing to say that was totally missed……”the American Redoubt”. I grew up in Chicago, moved to and lived in Texas for over 15 years and when the SHTF for me and my family personally, I spent almost 2 years researching my move before leaving Texas and settling in the Redoubt. The part of the American Redoubt that I moved two not only meets or exceeds all the requirements in the article, it has the highest concentration of Prepared minded people I’ve seen throughout my business travels over the last 30+ years….and believe me when I say that like BHO, “I’ve been to 57 states with just 3 left to go” 🙂 . So I’d ask the author if the American Redoubt was considered and if so it should be reconsidered. Lastly, since moving here in the last year and a half, the local and state politicians have been moving legislation that makes this area even more favorable…not less to rugged individualists yet there is a large and growing community and network of like minded people that give of their time to educate and train others to see to it we are safe on the day, month and year after.

    Happy prep’ing everyone!

    Reply to this comment
  22. Lucy November 25, 19:26

    Wow, what a thought provoking article! Entertaining, along with the ideas, too. Question: When you all talk about a “small” or “moderate” sized town, what size does that mean? Not New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, for sure, but are we talking 20,000? Or 500?

    Reply to this comment
  23. Prepared December 1, 04:31

    I agree with a fellow above, the Ozarks are the safest for every reason. I also agree the Smokey Mnts are too close to high population centers. The Cascades have 7 dormant or active volcanoes and are right next to Cascadia Fault which is stuck right now and expected to devastate any moment. The scientists and prophets have warned 9.0 to 9.2 which is at a level where rocks liquefy. The tsunami will wipe out 100% of everything west of I-5 and that means the mountain areas east of there will have pretty horrible devastation. You might also, in your look for a “safe” area, look at the US Navy map for the New Madrid Fault. Choose Wisely.

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader December 15, 01:39

      You just have to know where to go in Appalachia to get away from so many people. Most want to be around places like Gatlinburg or Asheville. But back in the hills and hollars, you’ll find a lot of like-minded folk when it comes to being self-sufficient. Some places are not that easy to get to if you don’t know the area. I think I’m in a pretty good location if/when things go south.

      Reply to this comment
    • Maineapple February 25, 18:32

      How many miles inland do you think the tsunami would extend? I am in Maine so am wondering how far inland such a tsunami may reach. Thanks.

      Reply to this comment
  24. Anonymous December 19, 17:57

    If in fact S really does HTF here, 99% of us will likely be sent to concentration camps or offed by secret agencies of some form or another. If you do “own” land you will relinquish it to the state or agency that really does “own” it (ie. the same people you pay land taxes to). When and if you’re able to return to it, it may be burned to the ground or doused with chemical agents rendering it useless for growing things or producing sustenance for a time. At this time, everyone will be on the move and the mightier your caravan, the better off you’ll be. Setting up camp overnight to rest will probably be the longest period of time that you’ll be in one spot. In my opinion, a pair of good hiking boots, prior knowledge of wild edibles and cleaning water, a backpack full of guns/ammo and a few other key survival supplies is all you’ll be able to gather before you leave “your” land. If/when you finally are able to return to “your” land you will find it in one of three modes; totally inhabitable, slightly habitable, or already inhabited by forces who don’t like Americans and are in need of slaves to re-build infrastructure.

    He who dies with the most land is, nonetheless, still dead.

    Reply to this comment
  25. Jan February 22, 17:22

    No one has mentioned proximity to military bases. Also, uranium is prevalent in much of the south east. NC, AR, SC, VA, MO. The Florida armpit is a major grenade factory. And, watch out for the pythons, feral pigs, and panthers in much of Florida.

    Reply to this comment
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